“Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

By Mark Nichol

This post lists and defines a small family of words derived from a Latin verb meaning “set” that share the element -stitute.

Statuere, stemming from the Latin verb stare, meaning “stand,” alludes to establishment or causing to stand. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s also the forebear of statute and statue, but words that include -stitute are also descended from statuere.

To constitute (literally, “set with”) is to compose, form, or make up, or to enact or establish. Constitution is the act of doing so, and a constitution is a body of laws and principles for an entity such as an organization or a government, or the document setting them forth. That term also refers to the makeup of an entity, including an individual, or to a custom or law or to the mode of organization for a society or a state. The adjective constitutional applies to all senses, and in that form the word also serves as a noun referring to a walk one takes for fitness.

Destitute (“set away”) means “lacking,” usually in the context of personal wealth; the state of lack is called destitution.

To institute (“set in”) is to establish, inaugurate, or organize, and an institute is an entity organized for a purpose, such as instruction, or promotion of a cause. Institution is the act of establishment, and an institution is a facility or organization, or a significant component or practice.

Restitute (“reset”) is a rare verb meaning “give back” or “restore,” but the noun form, meaning “act of making good or restoring” (usually in a financial context), is common. The legal term
“restitutio in integrum” (“total reinstatement”) refers to restoration to a previous state, and a restitutionist is one who believes in religious doctrine based on ultimate restoration to a pristine state.

To prostitute (“stand before”) is to offer oneself, sexually or otherwise, for monetary gain; the act or practice is prostitution.

Substitute (“set under”) means “put in place of another,” and as a noun or adjective refers to someone or something that serves in place of another.” The act of doing so is substitution.

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3 Responses to ““Constitute” and Its Established Cousins”

  • D.A.W.

    a restitutionist,
    an antirestitutionist,
    an antidisrestitutionist,
    a counter-counterrestitutionist,
    and so forth.

  • D.A.W.

    There is a subtle difference between the NOUNS “institute” and “institution”, but I will give a few examples, and leave the details to you.
    The Carnegie Institute, the California Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Institute for Literacy, the Rockefeller Institute, the Royal Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
    On the other hand, the institution of constitutional law in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Mexico; the institution of the demilitarized Antarctica, The Rehabilitation Institution in Warm Springs, Georgia, the institution of freedom of speech, and of the press, in civilized countries.

  • D.A.W.

    I don’t know if the verb “restitute” is so rare. For example:
    One of the results of World War I as to restitute Poland as a country. The Allies also restituted Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland. Belgium was restituted its huge financial losses from being invaded and occupied by the German Empire during 1914-18.
    After World War II in the Far East, the Allies restituted Korea as an independent country, and they restituted Taiwan and Manchuria to China. They also restituted Indochina to France, restituted Burma and Malaya to Great Britain, and restituted the East Indies to the Netherlands (temporarily).

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